Best raisin bran? We rank the house brands

raisin bran testSeems Store Brand Scorecard isn't the only one doing its thing. Consumer Reports has a new study in its October edition (out now) that estimates consumers who spend $100 a week on groceries can save up to $1,500 a year buying store brands.

But the question we always pose is "Are the savings worth it?" The report seems to indicate yes. Out of 21 store versus national brand taste tests staged for this study, 11 resulted in a tie, and in three instances, the store brand beat out the national brand. Other interesting tidbits you can use to impress your classmates:
  • 84% of Americans bought store brands last year.
  • 93% of store brand buyers said they would continue buying store brands after the economy recovers.
  • Store brand products sold in the U.S. netted a record $55.5 billion in sales last year.
Looking through the report, one finding stood out. Consumer Reports listed a dozen of the highest-rated store brand products from previous reports. Among the products: Great Value brand Raisin Bran, available at Walmart, described as "very good." Sounds like a ranking Store Brand Scorecard should verify.

So Store Brand Scorecard tasted Kellogg's, Great Value and two more store brand versions of Raisin Bran to not only find the best tasting, but also the most affordable. All products were purchased on Sept. 7 in the Chicago area. Prices are subject to change.

Brand Name: Kellogg's Raisin Bran
Cost: $2.98 at Walmart; $3.79 at a Chicago-area grocery store
Size: 20 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for 1 cup) 190 calories (10 from fat), 1 gram of fat (2% recommended daily value), 250 milligrams of sodium (10% recommended daily value), 46 grams of total carbohydrates (15% recommended daily value)
Taste: Flakes are big, crunchy and full of wheat flavor, but if there are really two scoops of raisins in each box, only a few raisins ended up in the two handfuls of cereal I took from the top.

The Big Box Store: Walmart
Brand Name: Great Value
Cost: $1.66
Size: 20 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for 1 cup) 210 calories (10 from fat), 1 gram of fat (2% recommended daily value), 350 milligrams of sodium (15% recommended daily value), 45 grams of total carbohydrates (15% recommended daily value)
Taste: These flakes are half the size of Kellogg's, and definitely not as crunchy or flavorful. But they've still got a pleasing wheat taste, and in the sample I had, there were at least twice the amount of raisins.

The Grocery Store: Jewel-Osco (owned and operated by Supervalu, number 47 on the Fortune 500 list, and parent to such grocery retailers as Shop 'n Save and Albertsons. )
Brand Name: Jewel
Cost: $2.59
Size: 20 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for 1 cup) 190 calories (10 from fat), 1 gram of fat (2% recommended daily value), 350 milligrams of sodium (15% recommended daily value), 46 grams of total carbohydrates (15% recommended daily value)
Taste: These flakes are the same size as Kellogg's, have a decent crunch and there are lots of raisins. Problem is, the flakes themselves taste like paper.

The Mini Market: Trader Joe's
Brand Name: Trader Joe's
Cost: $2.69
Size: 20 oz.
Nutritional Facts: (for 1 cup) 170 calories (10 from fat), 1 gram of fat (2% recommended daily value), 120 milligrams of sodium (5% recommended daily value), 44 grams of total carbohydrates (15% recommended daily value)
Taste: I'm all for earthy, healthy cereal, but eating Trader Joe's raisin bran is like gnawing on wood chips, and the taste is pure cardboard. Decent amount of raisins at least.

Greatest Value: Trader Joe's may have little sodium, but its poor taste, and high price, are big problems. On a scale of 0 to 10, Trader Joe's raisin bran gets a value score of 3.

Jewel's raisin bran doesn't taste much better, and it only costs 10 cents less than Trader Joe's. Value score: 4.

Unlike Consumer Reports, Store Brand Scorecard wouldn't classify Great Value's raisin bran as very good, but it was still good, with a decent amount of raisins. Kellogg's cereal, on the other hand, was very good, but the sample taken was skimpy with the raisins. Raisins aside, Kellogg's cereal costs $1.32 more at Walmart than Great Value.

In the end, Great Value's value is indeed very good, making it the winner of this challenge with a value score of 8.
Kellogg's is a respectable second with a value score of 7.

Piet Levy's Store Brand Scorecard tests a major label food product and three private label equivalents to see which brand offers the best value for the price. It appears every Monday on WalletPop's Money College page. Send suggestions, including items you want Levy to try, to moneycollege@walletpop.

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